Bill and I had the opportunity recently to help our newly formed Buffalo FFA Alumni serve up dinner at the chapter’s fall banquet, where the new Greenhands and Chapter degree recipients were honored.
Members were all smiles as their names were called to receive their pin as parents and other guests looked on. I was proud to see Madison, my niece, preside over the ceremony as chapter president.
While I was in FFA in high school with the exception of my senior year, and I still kick myself for quitting, it was Bill’s first FFA meeting. By the end of the night, he was the proud owner of two Buffalo FFA t-shirts and a new advocate for the youth organization. On the way home he was trying to think of new members he could recruit for our group.
We all need to be advocates for youth in agriculture, be it through organizations like the FFA, 4-H, local fair boards or by just hiring a neighbor kid who shows an interest in agriculture to help out now and then. Without guidance from adults involved in the agriculture industry, we are paving a path for future generations to become estranged from the farm.
Even though the majority of us live in small, rural communities where agriculture is the main industry, a large percentage of our neighbors, even those we grew up with in those same small towns, are two and three generations removed from the farm. The population of my home county is about 16,300 people and according to publicschoolreview.com, there are three public high schools that serve about 700 students. I would venture to guess that less than half of those students have backgrounds in agriculture, and even less are involved in organizations like 4-H and FFA.
I have a younger cousin who lives in a nearby city who once loved to help me feed baby calves. As a little girl, she would get so excited when I would ask her if she wanted to feed; she’d grab my hand, a calf bottle and off we would go. Even if it wasn’t time to feed when she would stop by, I’d always to let her at least pet the old broodmare, Jolie.
As time went on, visits were less frequent, and my cousin grew up. Today she’s in her early 20s and is always posting things on social media about rescuing farm animals and sending them to sanctuaries to live out the rest of their days. When I see those posts, I wonder if she remembers when I would sit on a bucket to help her feed the bottle babies as she would giggle at the calf slobbers, or if she remembers how she said Jolie’s mane was the most beautiful hair in the world.
Thankfully, young people involved in agriculture today are advocating for our industry. They’re are speaking up to share information about farming and agriculture to their peers. I’m hopeful through their efforts we will end the “food comes from the store” mentality.
As adults involved in agriculture, we need to take a lesson from our young people and become more involved in advocating for agriculture. Maybe we should go back and remember when we were Greenhands and were excited about getting that first pin for our jackets. Maybe we need to believe in the future of farming/agriculture with a faith born not of words, but of deeds.
If you would like to submit recipes for our annual Christmas Cookbook, you have until Dec. 1.
Email your recipes to [email protected], fax them to 417-532-4721, or mail them to Ozarks Farm & Neighbor, P.O. Box 1319, Lebanon, Mo. 65536.
Be sure to include your name and address!